search engine optimization

A simplified guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

If you are an author, editor, publisher or anyone connected with content creation, chances are you will need to know about SEO. Search Engine Optimization is the process of making changes to your website so that it performs better in organic search. Users are banking on search to reach content they want to read. Search Engine Optimization also means providing readers with the best experience. As soon as your website is ready, SEO should be the first thing you should address as a blogger. You are now ready to put on the hat of webmaster too.

Before starting with the SEO process make sure you have the website ‘ready’ in all aspects. Basic pages and a few articles and for WordPress users, a good SEO plugin completely configured.

Section IGet you website on Google
Section IIPresenting content – Website structure
Section IIIContent is supreme – Create original and meaningful content
Section IVUse links with care but first understand them
Section VPreparing images for SEO
Section VIBlog should be mobile friendly
Section VIIPrecautions to be taken so that your Blog is not penalized by Google

Section I – Get you website on Google

Google bots will automatically crawl though the internet and pick up your newly created website. But if you have to speed up the process, you will have to submit your website to Google by registering it with Google Search Console.

https://search.google.com/search-console/about

Make sure you have logged in with the Google Account which you want to associate your website with. After that there is a verification process for your website. There are multiple choices to choose from. For WordPress users, a plugin is the easiest way to link up with search console. Specifically, Site Kit by Google can make the task a breeze.

To check if you site has been indexed by Google

If your website is soonev.com, type the following in the address bar “site:soonev.com”. If you website and its links are visible in the results, then you are good to go. If not, there might be a number of reasons why your website is not visible. Start with technical points like if your website configuration is improper or if something else is blocking Google crawlers. Mostly you might have to just give time to Google to index your website.

Also note that Google Search Console is an information only tool. It will give you lots of insights as to how Google is perceiving your website to be. To keep your website in the best of health, take the errors seriously and check each and every tab and sections of this wonderful tool. Do not forget to submit your sitemap to Google Search Console.

Submitting website to other search engines

There is a whole list of search engines other than Google where websites can be submitted.

By the end of this section, your website is ready to be indexed by the search engines.

Section II – Presenting content – Website structure

Google loves a nice presentation. A blogging platform like WordPress or Blogger by Google will take care of pages and posts automatically. But you should be aware of the essential parts.

Page Title

The <title> tag is the most important element on your page and should be treated as such. It gives an hint into what the page will contain. Each page should have a proper title which can be understood by visitors and Google alike. Starting from the home page, each page title figures in all search results. While deciding page titles, keep note of the following

  • Meaningful name to describe the page accurately
  • Avoid the default names like Elementor 475 or New Page 1
  • Each page should have a unique title. Avoid repeating page names
  • Your SEO tool should suggest the optimal size for length of title
  • Avoid too lengthy titles for pages

Page Description

The page description meta tag helps Google with a summary of the page contents. If page description is not provided, the first few lines of text from the page are picked up. It is a good practice to have each page filled with an apt description. That works for your readers too. Just like the page title, the description is also helped with by your SEO tool.

  • Avoid generic descriptions. In case you cannot come up with any, use the website description
  • Do not copy contents from the page
  • Avoid using keywords only
  • Avoid repeated use of the same description across different pages

Headings

Imagine an article on the page with miles and miles of text. Here is where the heading tags come in play. Content can be split into easily readable sections. There are multiple heading sizes which can be used to effect. Size draws attention, so this way you can take your reader to a point on page where you want to. Follow a logical page structure while using headings.

Structured Data

Google understands that businesses need to give out information about their products and services out in search results. For example a product review page can provide information like Product ratings, Number of reviews and Cost of the product. These bits of information will be picked up by Google and showed in the search results. There are scores of data types like events, books, recipes, How to, FAQs and so on. Google has Data Highlighter and Markup Helper to insert relevant code snippets at the right places.

Title, Description, Headings and Structured data provide the important structural framework to website pages. Content is safely snugged in between these key meta tags. In this section too, a good SEO plugin for WordPress should be able to take care of everything.

Organizing site hierarchy

A website link is called URL or Uniform Resource Locator. Let us take example of a URL given below.

https://www.thetimelock.photos/category/places/delhi/

thetimelock.photos is the main website. It has different categories like places, nature, tips and so on. Under the category ‘places’ is the sub category like ‘Delhi’, ‘Mumbai’, ‘Pune’ and so on. This process is the continuation of what we discussed earlier about presenting a solid structure to Google.

A website hierarchy begins with the home page. In case of above, it is thetimelock.photos which is the home page or main page. In case of a blog, there will just be a few other pages like About, Contact & Location. But in case you have a more complex setup, then you may have to set your pages into a more logical and organized structure. Have a simple text based navigation and setup it up so that it is easy to return to the home page.

There are two parts before the website name. First is the ‘www’ part and second is the ‘https’ part. To ensure data safety, Google as a policy has it is going to be pushed for encouraging users to go for https which is a secure connection between a web server and the visitor. Highlighting the need for it, Google is marking the non-https websites as not secure in the Chrome browser. To add the ‘www’ part or not is purely decision by the webmaster. Once you submit your website to Google search console without the www part, and later decide to add it, you will have to submit it again.

Use Simple URLs to explain your content. Use of a string of numbers, or long thread of letters, numbers and symbols will irritate the readers. In Blogger by Google the URL structure is fixed. In case of WordPress it is called permalinks. For a post it is best to use a post name format.

Breadcrumbs is another way to provide a great navigational experience to your visitors. For WordPress, breadcrumbs are usually build up within the theme or you can use your SEO plugin to create breadcrumbs navigation.

Sitemap page is a good idea for websites with complex navigation or large number of pages. It also offers a chance to webmasters to present the whole website contents in one page. WordPress needs a plugin to display sitemap on a page. This sitemap is not to be confused with XML sitemap.

404 pages situation will always come up. It comes up when visitors reach a non existent page or content. WordPress or Blogger users, this situation is taken care of automatically by the theme. You may have the option of redirecting visitors who reach 404 pages back to the home page. But this way you will not know what has caused the error in the first page. Take help of Google Search Console to track the page not found errors.

This concludes Section II which deals with presenting content. The next section is the meat which is the content itself.

Section III Content is supreme – Create original and meaningful content

Your blog should be interesting and useful

Captivating content is what will make your blog famous on Google. People love to read good content. They will tell others about your blog. Organic or word-of-mouth publicity is what will help build your blog’s reputation. Readers will share your post. Make sure you have proper sharing options at the end of your article. It is widely believed that Google search engine uses AI to measure content. This AI machine will only get better by the day.

Find out what your readers want and give it to them

Google knows what your readers want, what they are searching for. But Google will never tell it to you. You as a blogger or site admin have to guesstimate the keywords what your readers are searching. First identify the target audience. They do the keyword research to frame your article title and content. If you have an art website, one which teaches students drawing and painting techniques. You also conduct classes for children between the age of 4 to 12 years. Parents of such students will search for art classes, drawing classes, drawing teacher near me or search for just activity for children. Interacting with parents will give you a fair idea on what keywords are to be planned. Design content based on this research. Ensure that your articles are original as well as interesting. Keep providing something new to your audience. Google Search Console will give you your top search queries. While writing content keep the following in mind.

  • Write simple sentences and easy to follow words. Readers love them
  • Avoid making grammatical mistakes
  • Avoid fluffy content which just adds words and sentences without any meaning
  • Avoid repeating same thing again in the same article
  • Explain the topic clearly to give an indication as to what is in the article
  • Arrange the article in smaller paragraphs with subheadings
  • Use a logical structure for your article
  • Do not duplicate or regenerate old content
  • Do not over optimize your article with keywords
  • Write an article with humans in mind and not search engines
  • Write a meaningful article

Your blog should aim to win trust of readers

Visitors will remember a website with good content. They will like to come back to read new content. Always build a trust factor with anyone visiting your blog. It helps to build a detailed ‘About Us’ and ‘Contact Us’ page. Make your blog look as humane as possible. It will help connect with your readers. Under no circumstances you should have any misleading content on your blog. Avoid hate speech & crude language.

Expert and Authoritative content

A confident article is appreciated by reader. Build a niche and post well researched content. Have well qualified people to write for your website. If your are a blogger, choose your blog topic carefully. Write articles after due research and verification of facts. The best approach is to go on location and verify things for yourself. Make good use of picture and videos wherever necessary. If your are technically qualified, put it on the ‘About’ page.

Provide sufficient content for each article

Your blog might have an announcement, a poem or simple recipe. An article can be review of a restaurant or might contain a detailed coverage of a week long trip. SEO plugins for WordPress suggest anything from 300 to 600 words per article. But this is not a rule of any sorts. Decide on appropriate size of the article as per the topic. Organize the article in proper sized paras. Do not over emphasis any point.

Avoid too many advertisements

On the internet, once your blog becomes famous, or sometimes even before it, you will get lots of offers for advertisements. Better paying ad networks highly recommended by fellow bloggers. At least for the initial two years do not look for anything beyond Google Adsense. Remember, advertisements cause lot of distraction to users.

A link or hyperlink is a connection to content within a website or to an outside website. While writing articles bloggers use a strategy in internal and external links. Most of the bloggers just ignore it while rest follow it to the book and are innovative about it too. Take for example this website. If we are writing an article about what is a website, we will link it to our previous articles on what is a one page website and what is a wordpress website. This is internal linking. If we link it to an external website, say wordpress.com then it becomes and external link. Links are important, both for the reader and for Google search. The entire ranking algorithm of Google is based on website linking.

Here is how it works in short. If we write an article on WordPress and place a link for wordpress.com in our article and so do hundreds of articles which bloggers have written on their respective websites. This will raise the reputation of wordpress.com in small bits. But it already has a high enough reputation. Now what if WordPress decides to write an article on a blogger who is using WordPress. An elaborate article mentioning the blogger and the articles covered in blog. Now, the reputation of the blog shoots up both in the eyes of readers as well as Google. At this point of time everything is fine with Google if this article on the blogger is legit and has not been paid for. What Google is worried about is that people link up with articles without declaring whether the link has been paid for or not. If the link is paid, Google wants you to declare the link as “nofollow”. This nofollow has now been expanded to three categories now.

As a blogger, you need to pay attention to which website you are linking to. You need to be careful of links in comments. Either disable linking in comments with the help of code inserted in your theme or add a nofollow tag to all links. Whichever policy you adopt. remember no link on your site should point out to a website which has been penalized by Google for being spammy.

Use proper link text

Link text or Anchor text is the visible area of a hyperlink. It is only part which passes information both to the reader and Google as to where the link is going to take you. It is an obligation to your readers to make it amply clear where the link is going to take them. Take the following sentence.

WordPress is the most popular content management system. It is one of the most commonly used blogging platform.

The word “WordPress” is linked to an external website, wordpress.org and the words string “commonly used blogging platform” is linked to an internal article on self hosted WordPress website. Both these words are called link text. Internal links are also called anchor text. Follow a strict policy to denote and clearly mention in the text as to what the target link is.

  • Be as descriptive as possible to explain where the link is going to take readers. Gone are the days of Click here or See what is next. Avoid using the entire link, though you can have exceptions for some cases.
  • Try to use a few words or a small phrase to use as link text. Do not use the whole sentence or paragraph as link.
  • Visitors should find it easy to distinguish between regular text and hyperlinked text. Most cases your WordPress theme should take care of this.
  • Give equal attention to internal as well as external links. Have a comprehensive plan in place for your blog.

Section V – Preparing images for SEO

Images or pictures are an important part of your content. In case of a blog, images will be present at mainly two places, all around the website in pages and in articles or posts. An article is never complete without a picture. So many options to choose from. It can be pictures taken so many sources these days.

  • Picture size on any website need to be kept in check unless you are offering High Definition content. Anything less than 200kb should be good. Heavy images take time to load and time is a penalty.
  • Always use a featured image for article. It shows well on social media and messengers.
  • Pay attention to file name of the picture, caption and alt text.
  • Place pictures at appropriate places within the article.
  • Use a slideshow for large number of pictures.
  • Strongly recommended to enable lazy loading of images.

It pays a lot to have a file name for an image. The next important thing you have to look to fill up is the alt text or the alt tag. Alt text space where you can write some description of the picture in text. In case for any reason the image is not visible, the alt text is displayed in the image holder. While using the image as a link, the alt text is regarded as an anchor text. Proper files names and image description will help them to come up on Google Search for images.

Image compression and formats

There can be no emphasis on speed of a webpage. Today the best option is using the format WebP. Lots of plugins offer this feature on WordPress. If not, JPEG is the best file format. Use a compression tool to bring your images to scale. Jetpack plugin from the makers of WordPress provides image compression as well as lazy loading.

Section VI Blog should be mobile friendly

Few years back this was the raging point for SEO. But today almost all blogging platforms are mobile friendly. But there is a catch here which you should pay attention to. Speed and layout for the mobile friendly version of your blog. Always check with Google for a mobile friendly test.

https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly

The above test is only for design of website. Most top WordPress themes are responsive in nature. So this part is taken care of. Along with design also important is the speed test. With mobile first indexing of websites by Google Search Console, this is the part which you have to focus on the most.

https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

https://gtmetrix.com/

https://tools.pingdom.com/

Important point for WordPress users.
Website with just the theme get top scores on mobile speed test even with posts and articles present. It is the plugins which slow down your blog. More the plugins, slower the website gets. Most of the plugins are poorly coded. Slow websites will face a heavy penalty from Google.

Section VII Precautions to be taken so that your Blog is not penalized by Google

  • Facebook blocks blogs which are reported by group admins which posts links indiscriminately. Once a link is blocked by Facebook there is nothing that can be done. So be careful as a blogger and be very selective as to how you share article links in Facebook Groups.
  • As bloggers you will be approached by SEO experts to “help” you with quick fame and success. Just to reiterate, there is no shortcut to success. SEO is a continuous process. SEO experts came in hordes and descended on the internet. After the Google panda update most of them have changed professions. There are still quite a few of the, peddling their innovative stuff. But the reality is as a blogger, you can become an SEO expert yourself.
  • Build your audience, promote your website and provide an easy way for your followers to get notified when you post new content. It can be newsletter or email based subscription. Do not spam your readers.
  • As a blogger you should consider creating an identity on Google My Business. It will make your location on map and drive lot of traffic to your website. Keep you readers updated with latest posts and updates.
  • Grow you audience of social media, connect wit the right people but do not overdo on the social networks as they will consume your time.
  • Facebook groups permit to posting of links but engage with other members as a two way interaction.

Summing it up

SEO is a journey as is your blog. It is too vast for a single person to master in a finite amount of time. Before jumping into any tip, weigh into its pros and cons. Your two worth companions in this journey are Google Search Console and Google Analytics.

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